Thursday 13 Dec
We drove north to visit Pureora Forest Park. The first walk was a short one called Totara Walk, and it was excellent. Lots of beautiful native trees, ferns, mosses, and we saw a Kaka (large parrot) getting nectar from a native fuschia tree.
Next stop was at the Buried Forest where 1800 years ago a forest was knocked over, from the violent volcanic eruption that formed Lake Taupo, and buried.
We climbed a 12m high Forest Viewing Tower which allowed a canopy view of the forest, before checking out a vintage steam hauler, winch and 2 ton Caterpillar crawler tractor left over from the forestry activities.
We went to within 300m of the geographic centre of North Island, before walking to Waihora Lagoon. Our cabin at Oasis Motor Inn & Holiday Park (Turangi) was very basic. In fact I was disappointed by the lack of a kitchen (which the booking agent said it had), but it was very quiet and had thermal pools, which were wonderful to help the sore muscles from all the walking.
We had sold some shares so could afford to buy NZ lamb for dinner! (I think Darryl actually found it at a good price, normally it is too expensive to buy here).
Friday 14 Dec
I woke up with a bad headache, so needed a slow start to the morning. Darryl walked up nearby up Mt Maunganamu. I was starting to feel better so we headed out. The first Scenic Lookout gave views of the mountain Darryl had walked up, along with Lake Taupo.
Just a little further along the road was Hinemihi's Track, supposedly a short walk, but the track was fairly unused and not really clear. I found an orchid and a giant moss which I had not seen before. The next feature was Te Purere Redoubt, two hand-built earthworks used in the 19th century by maori's and paheka's (whites) for battles.
Our main destination for the day was Tongariro National Park.
We planned to walk the 2-hour Taranaki Falls walk, which passed through mountain toatoa and beech forest. The falls tumble over the edge of an ancient lava flow.
We were a little disappointed that the predicted fine weather did not eventuate so all three volcanoes were swathed in cloud. On the drive back to Turangi, Darryl spotted the smoke pouring out of the crater of Mt Tongariro which is currently erupting. Walks in the area and the carparks are closed due to car damage.
An ancient Maori settlement was on the shores of a lake, and included the excavation of a house, and some food storage pits. Our final walk for the day was partway around Lake Rotopounamu. This could be a crater lake, as there seems to be no streams leading in or out. There is a 2-hour circuit, but we didn't want to do that much so went down to the black sand beach, enjoying the forest walk on the way.
Once again we soothed our sore muscles with a long soak in the thermal pool, before Darryl cooked the remaining lamb chops.
Saturday 15 Dec
Our first activity for the day was a one-hour circuit walk along the Tongariro River beside Turangi. The map showed lots of named pools, which I had assumed were thermal pools, but it turned out that they were actually trout fishing pools, so apart from the plants, there wasn't much to see. Towards the end though, we were at the top of a high cliff and there were really excellent views of the town, the river and Lake Taupo. We then took the leisurely drive up the east side of Lake Taupo, stopping a couple of times to look at the lake and see the views of the volcanoes at Tongariro.
At Taupo their were riverside markets, so we had a look, then drove to the thermal park to have lunch. We drove up to Huka falls, even though we had seen these last time, there were so impressive we wanted to see them again. A high lookout and a walk around the falls gives beautiful views of the vivid blue water.
We then decided on the Huka Fall River Cruise, which was a lovely cruise up the Waikato River from Aratatia Dam. Even though the water was 5m deep it was so clear you could see the bottom.
On the way back to Taupo we wanted to revisit 'Craters of the Moon', an excellent thermal area, but were shocked to see that now there is an entrance fee, so decided against it and kept going. We checked into Mountain View Motel, and after dinner walked down to the lake edge to watch the sunset and the volcanic mountains at the other end.
A Dutch national, working at the geothermal power plant chatted with us until it got too cold and we walked back to the motel. We heard that there is more concern about Ruapehu erupting as there has been heating up at the bottom of the caldera lake, also White Island has also been put on high alert over the last couple of days and an exclusion zone put around it.